Defending champions Kenya Commercial Bank and hosts Kabras Sugar clash from 4pm on Saturday at Kakamega Showground in one of the most hyped Kenya Cup rugby union league final in recent years.
This is the first time Kakamega is staging the final of Kenya's top club rugby competition and fans are bracing for a nerve-racking experience as two coaches familiar to each other engage in a game of tactical wits.
A well-balanced game of big hits, wide running, calculated kicks and organised setpiece play is anticipate as two tacticians that have seen their respective teams stand head and shoulder above the rest - Curtis Olago (KCB) and Henley Du Plessis (Kabras) - go head to head.
Olago has taken KCB to three Kenya Cup finals in the last four seasons, winning all of them against Kabras Sugar. On the other hand, Kabras have been to the past four Kenya Cup finals but won only one in 2015/2016 when they beat Impala Saracens 27-3 at a rain-drenched Impala Club in Nairobi.
Kabras have had a turnover of four coaches in the last four season starting with Anthony Ogot in 2014/2015 before Australian Mike Bishop arrived and won the Kenya Cup in 2015/2016.
Bishop left in the middle of 2016/2017 and his assistant Ogot continued but would again leave to see Charles Cardovillis take charge for the 2017/2018 season before Kabras Sugar handed South African Du Plessis a three-year contract starting 2018/2019 season.
Is Du Plessis the man to bring down Olago at the "Forest"?
That is the question as the two clubs that have endeared themselves to many, having dominated rugby in the country for the past five seasons, clash.
KCB, also known as "Lions" or "Kang Kang" by their fans, have an impressive record against Kabras Sugar aka "Tang Tang". They have met 10 times in the past five seasons with KCB winning in nine outings while drawing in the other. The last time KCB met Kabras at Kakamega was on December 3, 2016 where they drew 15-15.
Kabras Sugar have been imperious this season, winning by huge margins. The have claimed 15 victories against one loss thus far this season just like their rivals KCB.
It’s the tough bankers who dented Tang Tang’s super run, beating them 44-20 in the regular season. Kabras topped the league table with 74 points, a feat that saw them get the right to host the Kenya Cup final if they got that far. They did by dismissing Mwamba 23-11 in the semi-final.
Under Cardovillis, Kabras came close to lifting Kenya Cup at the Lions’ den in Ruaraka last season but time was against them as they ended up losing 29-24 to hand the Lions their sixth title.
“It’s now or never for us,” said Du Plessis. “We can’t wait for another season and if we fail to do it this season then it will be the same story next year.”
KCB have generally had a low-key season. They chalked up a morale-boosting win against Kabras (44-20) but surprisingly lost once, against Nondescripts.
They will be treading on unfamiliar grounds away from their impenetrable Den. “We leave history to the books and are going fresh into the match,” said KCB skipper Curtis Lilako.
KCB announced an unchanged side for the finale while Kabras have opted to start Charlton Mokua at second-row after he came off the bench for Brian Juma.
Juma moves to the bench. Influential winger Felix Ayange moves to left wing, exchanging positions with Kevin Keegan. Ayange and Keegan will come up against Jacob Ojee and Tony Onyango. Interesting face-off this.
Kabras fullback Fijian Jone Kubu is back to his explosive form and will come up against KCB’s Isaac Njoroge. Nick Baraza and Mario Wilson form Kabras’ lethal centre combination that will test the Brian Omondi and Peter Kilonzo KCB midfield.
Kenya Cup leading try scorer Ugandan Philip Wokorach and South African Barry Robinson have been deployed as half backs and will line up against their opposites Ken Moseti and Samuel Asati.
Max Adaka, Dan Sikuta, George Nyambua, Hillary Odhiambo, Claude Johannes and Asuman Mugerwa complete Kabras Sugar’s pack. KCB's big men are Andrew Amonde, Lilako, Davis Chenge, and Oliver Mang’eni. This promises to be an exciting 80 minutes of top notch rugby.
15. Jone Kubu, 14. Felix Ayange, 13. Mario Wilson, 12. Nick Baraza, 11. Kevin Keagan, 10. Philip Wokorach, 9. Barry Robinson, 8. Claude Johannes, 7. George Nyambua, 6. Dan Sikuta, 5. Hillary Odhiambo, 4. Charlton Mokua, 3. Asuman Mugerwa, 2. Max Adaka (captain), 1. Ephraim Odour. Substitutes: 16. Geoffrey Shitambasi, 17. Hillary Mwajilwa, 18. Joseph Odero, 19. Brain Juma, 20. Kevin Kabole, 21. Dan Angwech, 22. Johnstone Mun'gau, 23. Paul Abuto
15. Isaac Njoroge, 14. Tony Onyango, 13. Peter Kilonzo, 12. Brian Omondi, 11. Jacob Ojee, 10. Ken Moseti, 9. Samuel Asati, 8.Davis Chenge, 7. Peter Waitere, 6. Andrew Amonde, 5. Francis Mwita, 4. Oliver Mang’eni, 3. Curtis Lilako (captain), 2. Peter Karia, 1. Oscar Sarano. Substitutes: 16. Griffin Musila, 17. Moses Amusala, 18. George Gichure, 19. Brian Nyikuli, 20. Rocky Anguko, 21. Michael Wanjala, 22. Shabaan Ahmed, 23. Vincent Onyala